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September 2016 - The Sports Connection: Albuquerque Roller Derby

Soccer. Football. Baseball. Basketball. What is your favorite sport? It seems that Albuquerque may be making room for an exciting, alternative choice if the attendance and interest at the first local Albuquerque Roller Derby (ABQRD) bout was any indication.

The crowd of close to 500 spectators packed the seats and bleachers at Expo NM’s Manuel Lujan building on July 2. The sounds culminating from the large crowd, the game announcer (Piggy Phatness), volunteer officials, and players’ skates rushing on the polished cement all provided an integral part of an energizing atmosphere.

Some of the crowd were there to support the Las Santas team from Las Cruces, but most were there to cheer on ABQRD. Many attendees were like newcomer Clarissa Silva— just beginning to understand the ins and outs of the game, but coming out to learn, support a local team, and to have fun. “It was really cool hanging out and having so many people there and the mix of lifestyles that were attracted to the game. And I had some great conversations with my neighbors. Plus, I loved the positive attitude and energy from the players,” Silva said.

Another newbie to roller derby, Matt Barth, explained that he Googled roller derby rules on his phone and helped his circle of friends and neighboring seatmates understand what penalties were being called. So interested in the game, Barth has since volunteered with the team to become an announcer and possibly an official.

From my own perspective as a skater for ABQRD (and yes, I write, too), I only had a few chances to go out into the crowd and talk to everyone. I can tell you that playing on the track and hearing people cheering for your team is a powerful force to make you work harder. Maybe that’s why we won 195 to 94. But I also know we’ve been building a team for the last couple of years, got ourselves a great coach, and are serious about being better players. Our ten players (Author of Pain, Big Wheels, Bitch Mode, Blazian Boom, Carson, Cynder Block, Heisenberg, Laken Loaded, Max the Arctic Blast, Pin-U-Up ) vs. their full roster—not bad!

But I do want to clear up a few things. Today’s Roller Derby is very different than the one from the 70s. Elbows to the face are rare, and are considered a penalty; fights are neither encouraged nor expected; and most players play in the spirit of sportsmanship and with the expectation of athletic strategy. Roller Derby has seen a resurgence of membership and interest in the last couple of years, with over 40 involved countries and 1,400 active leagues.

Curious? We promise to have more seating, plenty of vendors, and the same kid-friendly time at our next bout, October 15 at 6:00pm. Or if you are interested in joining or volunteering, find us on the web: or follow us on Facebook @ABQrollerderby.

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